How to Plant a Japanese Red Maple Tree


Japanese red maple trees bring color and excitement to landscapes. Known scientifically as Acer palmatum atropurpureum, the maple will grow 15 to 25 feet tall with a spread of up to 20 feet. The Japanese red maple is a showy deciduous tree that is one of the most popular ornamental trees. Leaves from the tree are reddish purple in spring and a bright red in fall. This tree is commonly used as a bonsai for its unique color and small stature. It is hardy in USDA planting zones 5 through 8.

Step 1

Choose a location that has morning sun and partial afternoon shade. Keep in mind the tree can grow to a 20-foot spread, so make sure to leave it enough room to grow. The area should also be high enough to drain well. Plan planting for early spring when all threat of frost is over.

Step 2

Dig a hole three times the diameter and 3 inches deeper than the container you purchased the tree in. Remove all grass, weeds and stones from the dug-out soil. Amend the soil to a ratio of 2 parts soil to 1 part peat moss and 1 part compost. Place 4 inches of amended soil back into the planting hole.

Step 3

Carefully remove the tree from the container. Gently knock off some of the soil surrounding the root ball of the tree and spread the roots out with your fingers.

Step 4

Place the tree in the planting hole and adjust for height, making the tree sit at the same level it did in the container. Fill in halfway up the root ball and water to settle the soil in around the roots.

Step 5

Continue to fill the hole so the soil is level with the surrounding ground. Tamp the soil down by stepping on it firmly. Water the tree thoroughly immediately after planting.

Step 6

Keep the soil moist throughout the spring and summer. Water by leaving a garden hose trickle at the base of the tree for a couple of hours. Deep watering will cause the roots to go deeper into the soil, creating a stronger and more drought-resistant tree.

Step 7

Apply a good quality balanced fertilizer once you start to see growth. Trees should be fertilized once a year in the spring thereafter. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the amount to apply.

Step 8

Mulch under the canopy of the tree each spring to keep the weeds from growing and to keep moisture in the soil. The mulch will also help keep the soil warm throughout the winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • Arbor Day Foundation: Maple, Japanese Red
  • Tree Help: Red Maple
  • Nature Hills: Japanese Red Maple
Keywords: Japanese red maple, Acer palmatum atropurpureum, planting red maple

About this Author

Dale DeVries is a retired realtor with 30 years of experience in almost every facet of the business. DeVries started writing in 1990 when she wrote advertising and training manuals for her real estate agents. Since retiring, she has spent the last two years writing well over a thousand articles online for Associated Content, Bright Hub and Demand Studios.